About two decades ago, in a mag I was writing for, I predicted that among the most influential rock musicians of the 20th century would be Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, and Nick Drake. That last name met with the most resistance, but it's being vindicated as the newest crop of musicians arises. Here, Ms. Todd most vividly demonstrates why. Gea establishes its turf without delay, as River of Life / The Yes Song opens in a milieu of minor chords slowly inverting and languidly chasing each other with cellos droning like warm sunshine below a dulcet voice the female equivalent of Drake's extremely subtle pensivity. Even the words are crafted to erect the secondary architecture Nick so effectively wrung from his lyrics, nor are Todd's dissimilar in their metaphorical powers:
Those suggestions take a much deeper turn in Big Bad Wolf & Black Widow Spider, which I refuse to analyze lest doing so might deprive the listener of the shock of understanding what Todd's really writing about, a quite agreeable revelation arresting for its complexities. Like the subtlety of her wordsmithing, the production of this CD is exquisite, executed by Carlos Nino, violinist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, and Todd herself. Between them, they've managed to fabricate the precisely Romantic atmospheres John Cale made so golden in Drake's oeuvre. Just beneath Todd's lithe guitar, a classically oriented ensemble expresses itself perfectly in the mix, a pastelline matrix of drifting atmospheres narcotizing the listener into soporific emotional sonority with a singer who achieves the same plateau of euphonic understatement heard in Astrud Gilberto, Kimiko Itoh, Sade, and a small handful of female singers carrying on a seductively understated tradition.
Many musicians and groups are producing extremely attractive tributes to, and adaptations of, Drake and his genius, but this disc is the cream of the crop, every moment rendering the pastoralities of Byron and Tennyson in airily sensuous gestures and statements. Thus, we're looking not just at a hypnotic singer and player but a understatedly powerful writer as well (brilliantly abetted by Atwood-Ferguson's softly glowing arrangements), and if there's any justice in the world, Mia Doi Todd will very soon indeed find herself thronged with admirers.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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